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Timing Harvest Decisions Based on Corn Drying Method

Categories: HARVEST, CORN

Field Drying Compared to Mechanical Drying

The statement “the crop is not made until it is in the bin” is true every year. At which point do we stop field drying and utilize mechanical drying? This answer depends on many factors, such as the time of year, crop health, energy prices, and dryer capacity and efficiency. Since different corn hybrids dry in varying degrees, test and monitor moisture in individual fields to help make harvest decisions.

A mature corn crop may lose as much as ¾ of a point of moisture per day during September depending on weather conditions. By November, air temperatures will decrease and natural drying may drop to as little as ¼ of a point of moisture per day or less. Slower dry down rates require more time to field dry and result in higher potential field losses. Although field drying may appear less costly, costs associated with lodging, dropped ears and header losses must also be considered. Just two kernels on the ground per square foot equals a 1 bu/A yield loss. Depending on the corn hybrid, pest pressures and environmental factors, letting the crop field dry could be a great risk. Mechanically drying full-season hybrids or late-planted fields may be a better option due to corn maturing later in the season. 

When determining whether to field or mechanically dry your crop, take dryer efficiency and energy costs into account. Drying costs can differ significantly based on the type of drying method/dryer, starting grain moisture, desired end moisture and energy costs. Reference the Golden Harvest Corn Drying Cost Calculator to better understand potential drying cost management options.

Deciding how soon to harvest:

  • Field drying below 20% significantly increases in-field yield loss risks
  • Starting harvest at 25% moisture minimizes grain damage and yield loss
  • Balance possible increased drying costs associated with high moisture corn against potential field loss

Assumptions used for calculations: Corn price $3.50/bu; Bin drying with stirrer; Propane $1.50/gal; Electricity $0.10 per KW-h

The chart above illustrates bushels per acre required to offset additional drying costs due to harvesting earlier.

  • For example, if harvesting at 25% moisture, rather than the standard 20% moisture level, removing an additional 5 points of moisture with mechanical drying for a 190 bu/A crop could be warranted if you anticipate losing 7.6 bu/A or more from field losses
  • Field drying losses can easily range from 0–10 bu/A per moisture point removed

Visit with your local Golden Harvest Seed Advisor with questions or for more agronomic insights.

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